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'Exasperated wife' Ann Romney emerges as asset in husband's campaign


DAVENPORT, IA -- Ann Romney recalled moments that any mother of multiple children could appreciate: the name-salad directed by mothers toward their children after an instance of misbehavior.

"At the last stop I introduced my son who is here as Matt. His name is Craig. But it reminded me of what it was like when I was an exasperated mother and I would say 'TaggMattCraig... you know who I mean! You!" Mrs. Romney said, earning knowing laughs from the crowd who had gathered for her husband's campaign rally.

It was the kind of accessible, humanizing anecdote that has made Ann Romney -- the mother of five sons whom she sometimes describes as "naughty" boys -- such an asset to Mitt Romney on the trail.

As a candidate, Mitt Romney has famously struggled sometimes to connect with the voters who crowd his events. He tends to focus almost exclusively on policy and politics on the stump, eschewing issues like family or fatherhood. Ann's anecdotal tales of being an "exasperated wife," have become ice-breakers with packed crowds at near every stop, and voters and political observers alike have praised her increasingly comfortable appearances on the trail.

But she's also emerged into a more explicitly political role as of late, opining this morning on the state of the race in Iowa.

"This is a serious thing we're all coming to, and I sense something happening as we've been going across Iowa," She said. "I sense a feeling, a coalescing, a momentum or whatever it is you want to call it around Mitt, and I think people are starting to figure out that this is the guy who is going to beat Barack Obama."

Mrs. Romney has also been more prominently featured in the campaign's advertising, praising her husband's character in one television ad, and doing the same in a new web ad, launched just this morning.

“I believe in him. I believe he has the experience. I’ve seen him in every situation. I’ve seen him as a husband, as a father, as a governor, and as a successful businessman," Mrs. Romney says in the ad. "Everything he does, he does well and he does it with his heart and his commitment.”

Previously a rarer figure on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney's wife of 42-years (not 25, as he once infamously flubbed at a debate) has become a near constant presence in the final weeks before primary voting begins in earnest. She joined her husband on his bus tour of New Hampshire last week, and is crisscrossing Iowa by his side this week. When Romney returned to New Hampshire this past Friday and Saturday morning, Ann continued on in Iowa, campaigning with Chris Christie on her husband's behalf.

The former first lady of Massachusetts is usually introduced by her husband, who often tells of their first meeting at a high school party, when she, then Ann Davies, was just 15.

"I was immediately struck by that beauty," Romney reminisced this morning in Davenport, telling the story of how he drove Ann home that night and never looked back. "We've been going steady ever since."

And while Mrs. Romney can quickly draw knowing sympathy from a roomful of women by telling stories of trying to manage her five rambunctious sons with a husband regularly traveling for work, and of her difficult battle with multiple sclerosis, she also elicits laughs with her tales of revenge as a grandmother.

"The best part of having children, I will tell you, is the grandchildren. And the best part of being a grandmother is watching their children misbehave," Mrs. Romney said this morning, smiling. "These boys deserve it."

The former Massachusetts governor continues to dote, though, on his wife's twin role in his bid for the presidency.

Following an appearance this morning by Mrs. Romney on "Fox and Friends," where she was peppered with questions about her husband's record at Bain Capital, and his travails as a candidate. Afterwards, the former Massachusetts governor praised her performance at a rally here.

"She was marvelous. They asked her tough questions and she did exactly what you're supposed to do: she didn't answer them," Romney laughed, before launching into his stump speech, on jobs and the economy.